Canadian Football League great Michael (Pinball) Clemons is
appealing to the best nature of the city’s male leaders to help end domestic
violence.

Clemons told 50 of them at a special forum Monday night that
they must speak out against male violence against women, even if they fear what
people will say or think of them. His comments came in the wake of the shooting of Kasandra Perkins, 22, by her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher
Saturday morning. After murdering Perkins, Belcher drove to the Chiefs’ practice facility and shot himself in the head in front of his coach and two other officials. The couple just had a baby girl three months ago.

Clemons, who played briefly with the Chiefs in 1987, recalled being tackled by 300-pound players and getting up, teasing them and showing “audacity” by slapping them. But he wouldn’t say he was brave. He said the real courage “is to put someone else’s interests before your own.”

“We have the power to effect change,” said Clemons. “If we don’t have the courage to care, it won’t happen … It’s important that we care and it’s imperative we’re not selfish. I love men who are brave enough to care.”

Not speaking out, he said, could see a mother and her children lose their lives. He also asked the group to honour women, avoid verbal abuse and engage young men wherever they encounter them because “it says you have value.”

Clemons, raised by a single mother, couldn’t imagine losing his mother through domestic violence. “She was everything,” he said.

The forum was sponsored by Interval House, which received a grant from the federal government. It formed a male leadership community group lead by Dr. Mohit Bhandari, a professor and head of the orthopedic surgery division at McMaster University.

Those in attendance included McMaster University president Patrick Deane; Mohawk College president Rob MacIsaac; Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire (who also spoke to the group); United Way CEO Len Lifchus; Mountain Mosque Imam Abunoman Tarek; Hamilton Health Sciences president Murray Martin; Hamilton Community Foundation head Terry Cooke; City Kidz executive director Todd Bender; media personality Doug Farraway; businessman Joe Mercanti; and outgoing Hamilton Spectator publisher Dana Robbins.

The forum also heard from two male victims of violence. Alex Cree, a retired millwright, told of losing his daughter Donna to domestic violence in 1999 when she was murdered by her estranged husband. Glenn Allan, a motivational speaker, was sexually abused by his hockey coach when he was a child and went through a spiral of drug and alcohol addiction until his late 20s.

Cree, who did not mention the name of his daughter’s killer, said her killing was “a nightmare.” The family also had to go through many legal and health issues following her death.

He echoed the call that men should speak out against domestic violence.

dnolan@thespec.com

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